19-Year Old Scientist Discovers Life-Saving Use for Shark Skin

Written By: Meghana Krishna

For most people, sharks top the list of animals they’d like to stay far away from. But for 19-year-old Hannah Herbst, these seemingly threatening animals were the inspiration behind the reusable, antibacterial bandage she developed for post-operative patients. The bandage, which is made from shark skin, may lower rates of surgical site infections and reduce medical waste.

Hannah was awarded first place for her research in the Translational Medical Science category at the Intel Science and Engineering Fair in late July 2019. ISEF is an annual international competition that gives scientists under the age of 20 the opportunity to present their research and compete for nearly five million dollars total in prize money.

Every year, thousands of students apply for a chance to attend the fair, and only about 1800 make the cut. Students compete across 22 categories, judged by nearly 1,000 STEM professionals. This year was Hannah’s third time competing at the fair, and her first time winning a category award.

“The competition was amazing!” Hannah says. “Lots of high school students come up to me now and say, ‘I want to do what you did!’ One of the greatest opportunities ISEF has given me is a platform to share my research and inspire younger kids’ interest in science and engineering.”